Bears May Be Done Adding Linemen

Once again, from Dan Pompei at the National Football Post.:

“The Bears could be done adding starting caliber players to their offensive line. There still is a chance they could sign a free agent guard, but there also is a chance they will stick with the status quo. Roberto Garza is expected to start on the right side, and the team wants to give Chris Williams another chance as the left guard. They also have several developmental linemen they would like to see play, including Levi Horn, Herman Johnson, Lance Louis and Edwin Williams.”

He’s making some Bear fans very unhappy with this one (not to mention Scouts Inc.‘s Matt Williamson).

I think a lot depends upon what the Bears do at center.  It certainly sounds like they are going to be content to re-sign Olin Kreutz.  But Kreutz’s play is deteriorating with age, perhaps more in his case than most because he relies more on his agility than his power.

If the Bears decide they need more youth in the middle they may sign another guard and move Garza to center.  Otherwise the status quo it is.

Ryan Mallett: Are the Patriots Right, Again?

Dan Pompei at the National Football Post addresses this interesting issue:

“There are two Ryan Malletts floating around out there. The first is the one most people think he is. The second is the one the Patriots think he is.”

“Some scouts will tell you it will be a strong armed passer who can’t move. A player whose lack of athleticism is underscored by poor footwork. A cocky guy who likes to party and has a history of immaturity.”

The problem with the NFL draft is always separating fact from fiction.  I think a lot of personnel men listen to each other talk and every time a story gets repeated it grows on their minds and suddenly mole hills become mountains.

One of the above concerns is an absolute fact in my mind.  Mallett is a statue in the pocket.  I don’t mean he can’t run.  I mean he can’t move at all.  Tom Brady has what many players call “phone booth quicks”.  He can move just a little to the side at the last minute and cause rushing linemen to charge by him with barely a touch.  Jay Cutler has them too and its one of the things that makes you think that if he ever realizes his potential, he’ll tear up the league.

Mallett doesn’t have that and it definitely is a cause for concern.  But its not a huge gamble to believe a guy with such a big arm could, with a good line and time to develop, demonstrate enough mobility to get by.

It’s really the second factor, the intangibles, that apparently caused Mallett to fall to the third round.  Here’s what the Patriots think:

“Mallett’s character actually enhanced his stock with the Patriots. They don’t think drugs or other substances are an issue. All that is on his record is one arrest for public intoxication outside a nightclub near the Arkansas campus.”

It’s that last sentence that says it all in my eyes.

Ryan Mallett has been made out to be a Cam Newton-type problem.  But here’s the difference.  Mallett has one black mark on his record and its one that a lot of college students could claim.  Newton?  Stealing notebook computers, cheating on exams, being thrown out of Florida and, unless you are an incredibly naive Tiger fan drinking the burnt orange and navy Koolaid, taking money to play at Auburn.  These are verifiable facts that no amount of smiling and talking nice can make go away.

As former Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel wrote a couple months ago for NFP:  “The bottom line is the only things that you can really believe is what you know to be true.”  For the record, based upon what we actually know about Mallett, the Patriots have once again used common sense to get right what other teams continue get wrong.

More Preparation Time Gives Some Teams Big Lockout Advantage But Not Bears

Dan Pompei had this comment in last week’s Sunday Blitz at the National Football Post that stuck in my mind:

“Some people around the league are anticipating some interesting game planning and scheming early in the season, more so than normally is the case. Why? Coaches have more time on their hands this offseason than usual without players to coach. Bill Belichick, for instance, tells me he has been spending some of his extra time studying opponents.”

I bring it up because Bears head coach Lovie Smith confirms that the Bears coaches are also spending the extra time studying film in this video from

This all strikes me as significant.

The lockout is going to give certain teams more of an advatange than others.  For instance, everyone agrees that this time off is killing teams with new coaches who are bringing in new systems.  This may be another case of that.

Its great that Lovie Smith is spending time looking at film.  But they don’t exactly play fancy, “make a lot of adjustments and do something clever” defense in Chicago.  As former NFL safety Matt Bowen put it very well, again for NFP:

“Teach landmarks, run-pass keys and specific techniques that apply to the front seven and the secondary. The rest? Just play football. The exact theory behind the Tampa 2 scheme under Tony Dungy and what we see today in Chicago with Lovie Smith.”

On the other hand, as Pompei points out, this could be huge for teams like the Patriots and, I’m sorry to say it, the Packers.  Dom Capers looks to me like he could do good things with this time off.

Its possible that Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz might be able to sit down and think of some more interesting things to do against upcoming opponents.  But that doesn’t help the Bears without an offense that can execute to make those ideas a reality.

All and all I think the Bears strength as a team is in thier fundamentals on defense.  And you can’t work on those without players no matter how much opponents film you study.

Vote Packers for Hard Knocks

Yes, we’re all getting desperate for offseason entertainment. is running a poll within each division to find out who the fans want to see on HBO’s Hard Knocks.  Today is the NFC North’s turn.

Now it may seem to most of you that the right thing to do is to vote for the Bears.  Don’t.  Vote for the Packers.  Because this looks to me like a great way to cause a huge training camp distraction, which is probably the reason why several teams have already turned down the opportunity.  There would be nothing worse for a young team that to have players who are already on top of the world get their egos stroked by putting them on television for a summer.  You could almost guarantee a let down to start the season.

Not that the poll actually counts for anything.  And not that the Packers would be stupid enough to let HBO do it.  But I’m willing to fool myself into taking anything seriously if it means fewer stories about lawyers and lockouts at this point.

Bears Defense Needs to Attend Workouts – For the Good of the Offense

Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times recently interviewed Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and asked him about the workouts they were planning.  To the surprise of many, only the offensive players were planning to workout together:

“Cutler said the workouts would be for offensive players only.

“’I mean, those defenders have been in the system for eight years, nine years,’ Cutler said. ‘What are they gonna do?

“’What am I going to tell Lach?’ Cutler said, referring to linebacker Brian Urlacher. ‘‘Your drop is a little short. Sorry, buddy.’ Offensively, we have a lot of room to improve.’”

The offense actually started last Wednesday without the defense and Cutler’s reasons for not pushing them to be there above are true enough.  But what the veteran defensive players either don’t understand or, worse, don’t seem to care about, is that even though they personally don’t need the workouts, the team needs them to be there.

I love Brian Urlacher but like many if not most great athletes he’s a little emotionally stunted.  Sometimes you can tell that there’s a lack of maturity there that makes him self-centered, not on the field, but in other little ways off it.  This is one example of it and I’m sure many of his teammates are no better.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune sits down with the paper’s NFL expert, former safety Matt Bowen where Bowen elaborates on this issue:

“It’s easy to go out there and run routes with your teammates when you’re not held accountable by working against a defensive back and having a coach look over your shoulder. It’s just not the same.”

“Working against a defense [is what’s missing from the workouts]. Running routes is just like doing warmups before a game when you come out of the locker room. There are some benefits to that. You can work on your timing. Let’s say the depth of the route is 10 yards, you can really fine-tune that. Work on getting your head back. Jay (Cutler) can work on getting to that fifth step, planting the foot and throwing the ball. But without the competition aspect, without having the DB drive underneath that route and make a play on it, without having that DB working against receivers so they can create separation and get down the field, it’s not football.”

Bottom line your offense can’t get better without a defense there to play against.

Admittedly you might question just how much of a “competition aspect” there would be without coaches present and without the risk of even accidental contact.  And I understand that the offseason is a precious time for these guys and I’m sure the defensive players are enjoying the time off.

But the Packers, the Lions and the Vikings are getting better and the Bears aren’t going to keep up by sitting stagnant and saying, “We’re veterans.  We don’t need to work.”  Urlacher needs to get the defense out on the field to workout with the offense.